Kenya slaps $30 charge on Ugandan importers

Trade in East Africa is under recovery from Covid-19 disruptions. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Covid-19 has created a lot of disruptions in the last two years, threatening both regional and international trade. 

Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) has slapped a $30 (Shs106,500) charge on importers transporting goods to Uganda.

The charge, KTA said, seeks to compensate the money that transporters are spending on the mandatory Covid-19 testes required for all truck drivers entering Uganda.

In a January 3 notice, Mr Newton Wango’o, the KTA chairperson, informed importers across the region that the decision by the Uganda Ministry of Health to charge each truck driver $30 to test for Covid-19 before entering or transiting through Uganda, had left them with no alternative but to recover the same cost from importers. 

“We are left with no alternative but to recover the same cost/disbursement from you as the esteemed importer. These costs continue to slice our margins, exposing transporters to an uncertain future,” he said, noting that whereas Uganda had decided to charge all truck drivers entering its territory, the Kenyan government was doing it free-of-charge with results remaining valid for 14 days. 

In a December 20, 2021 letter, the Ministry of Health instructed that every driver must be tested before entering Uganda, irrespective of previous test status. 

However, Mr Wango’o said whereas KTA appreciates the sovereignty of countries and the duty of governments to protect their citizens, “the additional costs are simply unbearable by transporters who are barely surviving considering the increase in fuel costs and other associated costs that have not been factored in our rates over the last two years”.

In a December 31 letter, Fred R. Seka, the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations, raised a number of concerns, noting that the $30 charge was quite high for the logistics sector to absorb, and asked Uganda to suspend the new approach.

“All [East African Community] EAC partner states should consider providing free Covid-19 testing for truck drivers as essential service providers,” he said, noting that for frequent and essential cross-border travellers such as truck drivers, provisions should be made for their tests in one country to continue being recognised and accepted across borders. 

Yesterday, Mr Charles Kareba, the chairperson of Shipping Association, told Daily Monitor that they had started receiving reports of truck pileups resulting from delays occasioned by Covid-19 testing. 

“This crisis is building but at the end of the day, it is the consumers that are going to pay,” he said. 

Covid-19 has created a lot of disruptions in the last two years, threatening both regional and international trade. 
But Mr Jemba Kanakulya, the Kampala City Traders Association secretary for logistics, yesterday said majority of their members across the border had been affected because of the delay in goods reaching their destinations.

“But the most affected in this whole saga are the consumers. Any change in the logistics or transport industry causes a rise in prices of goods,” he said, expressing fear the $30 charge is going to be transferred to consumers.

“We are worried it might turn into $50 (about Shs177,000) extra in total because the more a truck driver delays at the border, the more costs they incur,” he added, urging government to copy some of the EAC partner states that are testing truck drivers free-of-charge.